Closing Bell: Energy Stocks Push Markets a Bit Higher Despite Syria Worries

new york stock exchange traders wall street investing syria energy
Richard Drew/AP

Stocks rose Wednesday on Wall Street, pushed higher in part by oil stocks, as investors continued to focus on the likelihood of a U.S.-led attack on Syria.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 48 points, or 0.3 percent, to 14,824, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) ticked up 4 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,634 and the Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) advanced 14 points, or 0.4 percent, to 3,593.

Escalating tensions between the U.S. and Syria hit the stock market hard Tuesday, sending the Dow down 170 points. On Wednesday, U.S. benchmark crude oil rose $1.09 to $110.10 a barrel, its highest prices since May 2011. While Syria produces little oil, a regional conflict in the Middle East could draw in bigger producers Iran and Iraq, and lead to supply disruptions in an area where half the world's proven oil reserves lie.

Energy companies were among the biggest gainers in the S&P 500. Shares of oil producer EOG Resources (EOG) rose 2 percent to $159.46. Chevron (CVX) climbed 2.5 percent to $121.81, as did fellow Dow component Exxon Mobil (XOM), which added 2 percent to end at $88.84.

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The quick rise in the price of oil has worried investors. Costlier oil almost always translates into higher fuel expenses for businesses and consumers, weighing on consumer spending and the economy.

In other economic news, the National Association of Realtors reported that contracts to purchase previously owned homes fell for the second straight month in July, a sign that rising mortgage rates are taking some steam out of the U.S. housing market recovery.

In company news, shares of specialty pharmaceutical company Endo Health Solutions (ENDP) rose 3.8 percent to $40.67, after the company said it would buy privately held Boca Pharmacal for $225 million to boost its generics business. Two of Endo's biggest drugs are set to lose patent protection.

Online and mobile ticket provider Fandango has agreed to buy Quantum Loyalty Solutions to ramp up its promotional movie ticket and gift card business. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Fandango is an NBCUniversal company, which is owned by Comcast (CMCSA, CMCSK).

More Stocks in the News:

  • Government housing finance authorities are pressing JPMorgan Chase (JPM) for at least $6 billion to settle lawsuits over bonds backed by subprime mortgages, according to a person familiar with the matter. JPMorgan shares edged down 2 cents to $50.58.

  • Shares of mining equipment manufacturer Joy Global (JOY) fell 4.7 percent to $48.89 after it reported a lower profit for the third quarter and said orders fell.

  • Homebuilding stocks took a hit on news that pending homes sales fell in July. PulteGroup (PHM) fell 1.4 percent to $15.38, D.R. Horton (DHI) shed 1.2 percent to $17.77 and Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV) fell 1.3 percent to $5.17.

  • Zale (ZLC) soared 30 percent to $11.63 after the jewelry store chain reported full-year income of 24 cents a share, well ahead of the 17 cents a share analysts expected.

  • Avago (AVGO), an electronics maker, rose 4.7 percent to $38.28. The company earned 74 cents a share in its latest quarter, beating analyst forecasts.

What to Watch Thursday:

  • At 8:30 a.m. Eastern time, the Labor Department reports weekly jobless claims, and the Commerce Department releases second-quarter gross domestic product data.

  • Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, releases weekly mortgage rates, 10 a.m.

-Compiled from staff and wire reports.